Washington, December 18th
An international team of scientists has collected the first possible radio signal from a planet beyond our solar system, which comes from an exoplanet system about 51 light-years away.
Using the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR), a radio telescope in the Netherlands, the researchers discovered explosions of emissions from the Tau Bootes stellar system that hosts the so-called hot Jupiter, a giant gaseous planet that is very close to its own sun.
The team led by researchers at Cornell University in the US also observed other potential exoplanetary candidates with radio emissions in the constellations Cancer and Upsilon Andromedae.
However, the study published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics found that only the Tau Bootes exoplanet system showed a significant radio signature, a unique potential window on the planet’s magnetic field.
“We present one of the first clues to detect an exoplanet in the radio realm,” said Cornell postdoctoral researcher Jake D Turner.
“The signal comes from the Tau Bootes system, which contains a binary star system and an exoplanet. We are arguing an emission by the planet itself,” he said.
If confirmed by subsequent observations, the researchers said, this radio detection opens a new window on exoplanets and offers a new way to examine extraterrestrial worlds decades light-years away.
Observing the magnetic field of an exoplanet helps astronomers decipher the inner and atmospheric properties of a planet, as well as the physics of star-planet interactions, Turner said.
The Earth’s magnetic field protects it from the dangers of the solar wind, keeping the planet habitable.
“The magnetic field of Earth-like exoplanets can contribute to their possible habitation by protecting their own atmospheres from the solar wind and cosmic rays and protecting the planet from atmospheric losses,” Turner said.
Two years ago, Turner and colleagues examined the signature of Jupiter’s radio show and reduced those broadcasts to mimic possible signatures from a distant Jupiter-like exoplanet.
These results have become the template for searching for radio emissions from exoplanets 40-100 light-years away. PTI